Multiplayer Online Battle Arena
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), also known as ARTS (Action Real Time Strategy), is a relatively new game genre. It involves teams of players competing with each other, typically using the point-and-click interface of a Real-Time Strategy
; but, unlike RTS games, players control only one Hero Unit
instead of a military-industrial complex.
The first MOBA game
was Aeon of Strife
, a map for Starcraft
. It gained popularity and, when Warcraft III
with its amazing map editor came out, spawned a lot of similar maps
which were referred to as AoS style maps. Amongst others there were D-Day, various AoS's direct ports, and Defense of the Ancients
, developed by Eul. One of its own spinoffs, Defense Of The Ancients Allstars
developed by Guinsoo, became the Trope Codifier
by virtue of its astounding popularity, with a non-negligible fraction of War3
sales driven solely
by people who wanted to play DotA Allstars
Every game in the genre has its own permutations and additions, but the basic formula popularized by DotA, and copied by almost everybody else, goes like this: there are two teams with five players. Each team has a base, with three "lanes" (top, middle and bottom) connecting them. The point of the game is to destroy the enemy's base before they do the same to yours. Each side has eleven "Towers" (two per lane, five in base) providing static defense, and the base helps players attack by sending out squads of Mooks
. Hero Units
, controlled by players, are far more powerful than any mook squad and gain Character Levels
. They kill the mooks (and each other) for Experience Points
and gold, the former to learn new abilities and the latter to buy items. Apart from this tug-o-war, there may or may not be any other activities to participate in, such as killing off neutral monsters. And as to the characters themselves, there tends to be Loads and Loads of them
, each with a unique set of skills, abilities and statistics.
Finding a Hero you're good at is a key step in development; learning how to work with and against whichever Heroes happen to be in play during this particular match is another. While Heroes may be One Man Armies
, they are not (or shouldn't be
) strong enough to carry the match single-handedly. Teamwork is essential
. Also, objective-oriented gaming can be very effective because the base itself is the Instant-Win Condition
; a team getting stomped in the kill score can still win via stealth and misdirection. Finally, the Unstable Equilibrium
is weighted heavily towards early-game mistakes. A single Leeroy Jenkins
or Ineffectual Loner
can not only doom your team, he can do so before five minutes have passed. As a result, the player base of a MOBA game typically Suffers Newbies Poorly
, and treat the game as varying levels of Serious Business
, with all the hostile corollaries
Please note that most of the tropes on this page only apply if you're playing with a bad group, or have to fish through the internet ponds. If you're playing with friends, and are just there to fool around, you're way more likely to have fun. There are also a few more "casual" MOBA games that are less vitriolic overall.
Games in this genre:
- Awesomenauts (A 2D Sidescrolling game following the DotA formula)
- Aeon Of Strife (Starcraft Game Mod)
- AirMech (Also a Real-Time Strategy in the vein of Herzog Zwei.)
- Bloodline Champions, which does not follow DotA's formula at all
- Chaos Heroes Online. A MOBA made exclusively from Japan! Think of it like League of Legends, but featuring Guilty Gear and BlazBlue characters.
- Clonk scenarios "Tower Attack" (focusing on the base and mook elements) and "Keepers" (with less Real-Time Strategy elements and more action combat and RPG Elements; freely combinable skills depending on class instead of fixed skillsets).
- Dawngate (An upcoming game by a new company called Waystone Games that changes things by removing the standard middle lane in favor of a massive jungle, and adding "Resource Nodes", which are automatically mined by minions when captured and give resources to the team)
- Defense Of The Ancients (Warcraft III Game Mod)
- Demigod (A particularly high-budget attempt at the genre, with incredible graphics and sound and a lot of creative new mechanics; sadly it failed to get off the ground and died in short order)
- Dungeon Defenders 2, a sequel to the original Dungeon Defenders which was going to have a Dota-like mode with many heroes and a third person camera, but was scrapped in favor of sticking to the original formula
- Fat Princess, a hybrid of the genre with top-down Action Game.
- Heroes of Newerth: Originally developed as a direct port of Dota All-stars to a new engine, since the Warcraft3 engine was woefully out of date, it has over the years grown to be different in many respects. Most notably the larger part of heroes developed directly by S2 Games but also several nuances have been changed that Valve would not dare touch for fear of upsetting fans of the original mod.
- Heroes Of Order And Chaos: a MOBA for your phone!
- Heroes Of The Storm: A MOBA made with Heroes and characters from Blizzard's popular three properties crossing over and battling in new and original maps, each with their own objectives and twists. Promises short and quick matches that are simple and easy to get into, removes items entirely in favor of "Talents". Was originally called Blizzard Dota (Changed after a lawsuit with Valve), and then Blizzard All-Stars, before settling on the current title.
- Infinite Crisis: A MOBA being made set in the DC Universe, with the premise of numerous alternate universes colliding.
- League of Legends (developed by several of the team who worked on DotA Allstars (including Guinsoo) and currently rated as the single most-played PC game in the world)
- Lord of the Rings: Guardians Of Middle Earth
- Monday Night Combat, a hybrid of the genre with Third Person Shooter.
- Its sequel, Super Monday Night Combat, follows the formula more closely, but still blends it with a Third Person Shooter.
- Prime World (An upcoming game that seeks to integrate Facebook and the ability to play support with a Zuma-like mini-game if a player isn't that good with DotA-style games)
- Realm Of The Titans (Was supported by Aeria Games for about a year or two, support in the US has been dropped, but continues to be played in East Asia)
- Rise Of Immortals (Lasted around 2-3 years, had a short relaunch as Battle for Graxia, but the service was cancelled in June 2013 )
- Sins Of A Dark Age (An upcoming game made by Ironclad Games that mixes things up by having 4 players on each team control a hero, while the other two separately control a "commander" who creates buildings, units, and other Real Time Strategy Elements).
- Smite (An upcoming game by Hi-Rez Studios, who made Global Agenda. Notable for putting the action in over-the-shoulder 3rd person for a more action-packed experience, while still sticking faithfully to the genre formula. Based around mytholigies from all over the word where you take control as gods such as Thor, Hades, Ra and many more.)
- Solstice Arena: a trend-breaker in several ways, being published by Zynga (!) exclusively for iStuff (!!). It's described as a "speed MOBA" and does away with mooks entirely.
- Storm Of The Imperial Sanctum (StarCraft II Game Mod)
- Tides Of Blood (Another Warcraft III Game Mod)
- Universal Monsters Online (a Massive Multiplayer Crossover starring Universal Horror monsters, has been discontinued as of 2013)
- Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes (A game that was being made by Bioware, did moderately well, but failed to meet expectations, and was cancelled before it left beta)
- Vorp (An upcoming Space MOBA game)
List of tropes prominent in the genre:
- Acceptable Targets: It's no secret that this genre is practically bred to cause emotional angst. However, nothing sets the playerbase off more than saying you are Brazilian or Russian. Mostly in LoL and DotA respectively.
- Or Pinoys and Chinese (From china) for South East Asian players.
- Also, extend the hate towards Russian's to any, even remotely slavic nationality. If you speak a slavic language in a game, you will be called a Russian and hated for it.
- LoL actually implemented a South American server to separate the Spanish/Portugese speakers from English ones. Of course, seeing a Brazilian on the NA server gets a response along the lines of "why aren't you people gone yet?"
- Granted, most Brazilians on League of Legends are actually Trolls. Games like these are notoriously easy to troll due to their nature of being very friendly to Sock Puppet account.
- Adaptation Displacement: DotA: Allstars is more popular and well-known than any of its predecessors. Very few people know about Aeon of Strife or Eul's DotA.
- Likewise, Guinsoo's tenure at the helm of Allstars is more historical compared to Ice Frog's tenure, due to Ice Frog maintaining Competitive Balance.
- Ascended Glitch: some of Warcraft III engine limits and glitches made it into metagame and are copied in other games. Notably, the concept of denying your own friendly creeps to "deny" XP and gold from the enemy.
- Boss Battle: The heroes may be considered Bosses. In addition, some MOB As also include a powerful Neutral enemy which is difficult to face alone, but usually yields a powerful reward (like the ability to revive from death once).
- Can't Catch Up: Players intend to invoke this. In many MOB As, there are many heroes who can't do much after a certain point in the game thanks due to lower scaling abilities/stat growth. In addition, by then, heroes who succeed in getting enough gold and experience will start to painfully maim their past predators
- Character Tiers: Double Subverted. While some heroes tend to be useful in more situations than others, more often than not, every hero with the right usage and some teamwork can one way or another hand their foes' asses to them. Emphasis at the phrase "right usage", however.
- Comeback Mechanic: if you kill a Hero who is amidst a Kill Streak, you get a big Gold bonus, not to mention a huge psychological boost.
- See also the various other metrics of success. New players typically assume that leading in killscore equates to victory, and it certainly does up your chances... but "CS," the number of mooks you've killed—and thus the amount of Gold you have—is critical too, because that results in better items. The number of demolished towers are also important, because it lowers the enemy's map control and makes it harder for them to farm safely. Finally, there's typically some sort of Bonus Boss (Roshan in the original DotA) that grants some sort of mega-buff when slain. In the semi-final round of the 2013 League of Legends world championship, a team that was behind in kills 2 to 1 nonetheless managed to keep equal in Gold and items, and snatch said mega-buff. It was enough to turn the game in their favor.
- Competitive Balance: you can have Physical Gods and Badass Normals in one setting, but they must be equal in power.
- Complacent Gaming Syndrome: Being a PvP game, par for the course.
- Detractor Nickname: Haters prefer calling the genre "Aeon Strife-Styled Fortress Assault Game Going On Two Sides", a not-inaccurate description that has the amusing side-effect of shortening to "ASSFAGGOTS".
- Double Standard: The person on their team disconnects? They'll pause and wait for them to come back. When the person on your team disconnects? They'll force-unpause the game and use this as an advantage to come ahead.
- Dynamic Entry: Pretty much every MOBA has at least one character that can use "stealth" or turn him/herself invisible before landing the first attack.
- Entitled Bastard: A lot of people will constantly ask you to help them out, refusing to help you back, and do not expect a "Thank you" if you do save them.
- Excuse Plot: Some games just think "Pick these people, now go fight."
- Fake Difficulty: In the form of Guide Dang It. If you're new to the genre, then don't expect the in-game tutorials to help since they rarely explain more than what the controls are. They do not tell you details of the metagame—the popular / successful trends that everyone follows and expect you to be up-to-date on. Matches vs AI (if they exist) can help you catch up, but not by much. And forget The Wiki Rule: they may provide documentation, but rarely provide strategy, partially because it constantly changes and partially because MOBA players don't like sharing.
- Fan Dumb: The number of accusations about DOTA 2 having copied Lo L or Ho N is frightening. You'd think the 2, combined with the unfamiliar title, might've prompted them to do a touch of Google-Fu to find out what Dota 1 was.
- Follow the Leader: The standard 5-on-5 three-lane map described above has been implemented in almost every clone, to the point that players can be surprised if certain minor features aren't in the exact spot they're used to finding them in. However a couple games have decided to diversify the genre by adding different game modes... and have been criticized for not being a near carbon-copy of DotA, interestingly enough.
- Game Breaker: par for the course, due to new heroes being released on a regular schedule. The developers try to balance them, but with so much new content, it's inevitable they miss something.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation
- GIFT: In the form of "Stop Having Fun" Guys, Serious Business Scrubs, Suffers Newbies Poorly, Unpleasable Fanbase, Small Name, Big Ego, Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy, and Entitled Bastard. Basically, MOBA games have a terrible reputation for having communities full of people on their absolute worst behavior.
- The only gaming communities considered worse than MOBA communities are some fighting communities. Aside from that, the fanbase of many a MOBA is a Wretched Hive, so much so that self-policing organizations existed for Dota and official bans and punishments for poor behavior exist in many modern games.
- Even then, some Lo L players were surprised when Riot Games actually banned a professional player for being an asshat.
- I'm Not Here to Make Friends: Given that some of these games show up in e-Sports and have official tournaments, you can definitely spot the people who are clearly not here to make friends, they're just here to win.
- Even in standard play, people have pointed out the guys having the most fun are the ones who aren't there to win and don't give a hoot about their statistics; they're just there to play games because they think it's fun. Sometimes it's more fun just to hear people throw tantrums.
- Internet Tough Guy: Some people who take everything personally or can't cope with losing.
- Item Crafting: Introduced in DotA: Allstars. Everything is sold in the shop, but high-tier items are built out of mid-tier items, which themselves might be built out of low-tier items. This is meaningful because War3 only gave heroes 6 inventory slots. Forcing you to save up for the Infinity+1 Sword would basically doom your team to failure, since anyone who went for an Infinity–1 Sword would have it half a game earlier—and that edge, tiny though it seems, matters a lot. Hence item crafting, allowing you to suck less by building two -1 Swords and combining them into the +1 later.
- I Thought It Meant: Prior to the naming of this genre, it was a common sight to see people refer to these as Tower Defense games.
- It's Up to You: It's not. Nobody can win a game single-handedly if he is the only decent player on the team. Good teams, however, may utilize a 'four-protect-one' strategy where one of the players runs a phenomenally powerful damage dealer that the rest must sacrifice life and limb to build up for the endgame.
- Well, actually, when the MOBA is more like DotA, some characters, given enough time to get the money for their items, actually CAN win the game single-handedly, however it is very hard and doesn't often happen.
- It's more of a zigzagged trope. Although there are absolutely no popular games that allows a player to One-Man Army the enemy easily, there are strategies that can rely heavily on a single player doing his job rather than the team. The most common one is called "backdooring," in which a Stealth-Based Mission targets the base to exploit Instant-Win Condition, but there are others.
- Level Grinding: 'Laning' and 'Jungling' are the prime sources of Experience Points for essential skills and gold for key items, even with the much larger individual bounties for hero kills.
- Limit Break: the ultimate spell which is more powerful and unique than any other spells, and it can be afforded by reaching a certain level.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: DotA has 112 as version 6.76, League of Legends recently hit 110 and is still going with no indication of ever stopping, although it has slowed by a bit (one champion every 3 weeks, rather than every 2) while HoN has 118 even though it slowed the production to maybe 1 hero per month some time ago.
- When a MOBA goes on enough, they get this. This is in fact one of the draws of the genre - unlike other genres with this trope, you can actually log on and see more than five characters being used.
- This is arguably one of the main reasons poor Demigod failed so badly: it launched with eight characters. Eight. The developers patched in 2 more after launch, but it was too little, too late.
- One-Man Army: Downplayed Trope. Certainly the average playable character is this compared to the average (unseen) denizen of the gameworld, but compared to other playables, a character may only become a One Man Army if his/her/its leveling and farming is successful.
- Most Bonus Bosses are this. usually it takes several high-level heroes with several articles for beating a Bonus Boss.
- Pick-Up Group
- Play the Game, Skip the Story: Being a multiplayer game; whenever a game attempts to have a plot, it's ignored.
- Serious Business: This is par for the course in any PvP game, but practically a genre trait in MOBA games.
- The Shepherd: Some people genuinely do want to help newbies get better, and will give them advice and encouragement.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Most of the jerks on these games really don't have the skills to back up their Trash Talk...
- The Social Darwinist: ESPECIALLY prevalent in the various playerbases of these games.
- Sock Puppet: A few games are notriously easy to make a Sock Puppet account for.
- Suffers Newbies Poorly: Some people who treat you like crap when you're starting might be perfectly reasonable if you play them after getting better. And then there are...others.
- "Stop Having Fun" Guys: This too, though it's more endemic in "pro" environments like DotA or Heroes of Newerth. Course, if you manage to play any MOBA game and not run into these guys, then you are Born Lucky. The very conventions of the genre tend to encourage this behavior as any deaths will make the opposing team stronger ('feeding') and experimenting or fooling around can be lethal. This is why most newbies, or experienced players experimenting with something new, are encouraged to start with bot games. (As a bonus, you're a bit more likely to find The Shepherd there, if for no other reason than players are a bit less cranky when the Curb-Stomp Battle is basically guaranteed.)
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks: These games tend to be patched often, leading to this reaction in fans often.
- They Copied It, So It Sucks: inverted. Games will often get flak for deviating from the established formula. (It can also be suicidal because it reveals how much of game balance is circumstantial. League of Legends has four whole maps—three more than Dota—and many of its characters have wildly different positions on the Character Tiers depending on which map you're playing on.)
- Tier-Induced Scrappy: Because of the team-based aspect of these games, this mostly happens with low-tier characters. It's not unknown for people to Rage Quit because somebody on their team chose a character perceived as being underpowered. Likewise, in DotA, which doesn't allow both sides to deploy the same hero, people might rage-quit when they saw that the other team had managed to nab the latest Game Breaker.
- Developers of games are constantly trying to avert this trope so people actually will try to win with their favorites, not just picking a hero declared "OP."
- Especially since "OP" is not a relative term in these games. The original DotA only lets one team pick any given hero; Mirror Matches are forbidden. And there were some characters that were so Game Breakery that the whole game was decided by the question of which team managed to click on him faster, a process which took five seconds. The thirty or forty minutes of gameplay that followed were largely a formality.
- Total Party Kill: "ACED!"
- Ungrateful Bastard: LOTS.
- Unstable Equilibrium: Dying to the same opponent three times or even twice can basically hand them the game. This may seem ridiculous, but look at the advantages he gains from just one kill:
- He gains Gold and Experience Points, not just from the kill but because you have to respawn and return to the fight, a time during which you are not Level Grinding and he is.
- While you are absent from lane, he has a window of relative calm in which he can grind, set up ganks ("gang kills") on your beleaguered teammates or achieve other objectives (towers, the Bonus Boss, etc), solidifying his team's lead.
- Finally, the original DotA and some others would penalize you by taking Gold away from you every time you died. Depending on circumstances, it was completely possible to be reduced to 0 G. This is the one most likely to be removed by spinoff games, as it's just a bit too harsh, and even the "Stop Having Fun" Guys don't complain about its absence.
- Unstoppable Rage: The playerbase for just about every one of these games.
- Weak Turret Gun: Double Subverted. Early-mid game towers are very dangerous and can kill heroes in only a few hits, but they don't scale according to hero levels, so past a certain point towers stop being a formidable threat. Their main Late-Game use is as glorified stealth detectors.
- However, played entirely straight and justified gameplay-wise with some heroes who may be able to summon turret guns.